(Note: This was written on Sunday, the morning after what should have been the Sabres' home opener, and originally ran on Roll the Highlight Film. Joe asked me to republish it here. This post was intended to be completely unfiltered, without the usual over-editing and censoring of my filthy mouth that I usually do. With the exception of some slight editing to account for some things in the original post that would have been out of place here, my words otherwise remain intact.)
Today is the morning after what should have been the Sabres' 2012 home opener. I should have been at the First Niagara Center cheering on the Sabres with either my wife and son, or by myself with my daughter (she's four years old now, so she can't sit on our laps for free anymore). I should have been buying $4.00 bottles of Diet Coke and maybe a similarly overpriced hotdog or nachos. Had my daughter been with me, I should have been accompanying her to Sabretooth's house for the entire second period (*grumble*). I should have been booing the hell out of Sidney Crosby - I don't care how good he is, I hate the guy. I don't entirely understand why either.
But instead, because of a level of greed displayed by the owners and players which you and I can never understand, I did none of those things last night. I should have woken up this morning feeling happy, exhilarated, euphoric, or maybe just plain thankful that the NHL was back. Instead, I woke up this morning feeling two emotions: anger and apathy. The NHL should be happy about the former, and they damn well better be shitting their pants at the latter.
See, I've been a hockey fan all my life. My dad took me to my first hockey game in the 80s; the importance of saving ticket stubs to commemorate occasions was lost on me at that age, but I'm pretty sure it was this game from 1987 against the Oilers. I've been fortunate enough to hold season tickets since 2006-07, during which time <strikeout> HSBC Arena </strikeout> First Niagara Center has been like a second home for me. Sometimes it feels like I've practically raised my kids in that barn. I spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the store annually on shirts, gifts, and jerseys (which my closet is nearly bursting at the seams with at this point).
None of that makes me special, of course. The vast majority of the 10 people who read this will claim the same. But it's important in establishing why I, and likely you, are straight up pissed off about this lockout. We have invested a lot of time and a lot of money into a league that doesn't give a shit about us. That I can't follow it right now gets my blood boiling.
What really gets me angry about this are my kids. My son - who just turned two last week - absolutely loves the Sabres. He's at an age where he's really starting to get the hang of communication. Whenever he sees a Sabres logo on, well, anything, he gets really excited, points and shouts "BUCKO BUCKO BUCKO!" (That's how he says "Buffalo". Hasn't mastered the letter F yet.) I mean, you should see this kid - he gets so amped up simply about seeing a logo that you'd think he just ate a five-pound bag of sugar.
It's a rare moment in this house when he's not carrying around a hockey stick whacking away at a soft hockey ball. He's getting screwed out of hockey for what will probably turn out to be an entire season, at an age where we can still take him and sit him on our laps without having to pay admission for him. And my daughter, who will be five in December, keeps asking me "Daddy, when are we going to the Sabres?" Just for fun, would you like to try explaining the dynamics of a labor-management dispute in terms a four-year-old can understand? I haven't been able to do it yet.
Having dealt with 2004-05, I can cope with another lockout. The last one proved to me that I can find other things to do. But my kids don't understand what's going on, and they're being cheated.
That stillborn 2004-05 season is also responsible for my other emotion - apathy. Well, it's really more of an angry apathy, as you're about to witness.
Simply put, I don't want to go through this again. Just cancel the entire fucking season. Do it now, before I get even more angrily apathetic. Don't jerk me around two weeks at a time with empty promises and bullshit rhetoric. If we really are to believe that there will be hockey in 2012-13, then get your asses to the fucking bargaining table and get a goddamn deal done. Until that happens, shut the fuck up. We, the fans, don't give a shit about who is wrong or right in this. JUST GET A DEAL DONE. (Sure, they'll argue that they need the "right" deal, so this doesn't keep happening every six or seven years. And they're correct. You know what accomplishes that? Talking to each other, instead of sniping at each other through the media. Also, pro tip: willingness to make concessions would go a long way here. Your move, NHL.)
Every day, as time allows, I read about 25-30 Sabres blogs as well as Puck Daddy, Pro Hockey Talk, Backhand Shelf, and a number of other hockey blogs. It's been a part of my daily ritual for a long time now, and I enjoy it greatly. That ends today, and that will remain the case until the lockout is finally over. With all due respect to all the great writers whose material I read, I simply can't take any more idle and ill-informed speculation on when the lockout will end and I certainly don't want to read about the fucking KHL.
I'm also done spending money on NHL-related products for a good long while. That's a big part of the reason I'm having the Sabres refund my money for unused tickets every month. Sure, they're offering 4% interest per annum - but it's refunded via the Sabrebucks card, which forces me to use it on tickets, in the Sabres store, or elsewhere in the FNC. Besides, I did the math and 4% interest per annum really isn't that much. If I got a full 12 months interest on my ticket money, I'd make about $107 - and I don't believe I'd get a full 12 months interest on all my money, either. For example, if games are canceled in February and then a new CBA is reached in March, my understanding is that I'd only get 4% divided by 12.
So, enough for a newspaper or perhaps a 2-liter of Coke. Sorry, not enough of an incentive. With all due respect to the Sabres organization - and I know it's possible some of their staff may be reading this, as I've been invited to a pair of blogger summits - I know you guys are probably trying to keep as much cash on hand as you can, but why should I allow you to keep my money so I can make an extra few bucks when I could be using that money on events that are actually happening? That's money that I can use to see the Amerks, check out a Niagara or Canisius hockey game, or take the kids to Disney on Ice. Hell, if I really wanted to go crazy, my season ticket deposits could cover another trip to Disney World (again) come April.
Call me when this is over. Until then, I'll do my best to find other ways to occupy my time. And the NHL had better hope that none of those things are anything more than just a passing phase.